It is intriguing to compare the various newspaper reports on the government response to the FMD inquiries (a selection are given below).  These range from "government humiliation" to "Beckett agrees to vaccinate", neither of which are remotely accurate and leave us wondering if journalists ever bother to read the documents they are reporting to the nation.

Mind you, at 94 pages it does take some determination to wade through.

We have done so, and gathered some selected extracts to convey the general direction of the response, along with a few pertinent comments of our own to highlight the errors and inadequacies in some areas.

Overall, it must be acknowledged that vaccinate-to-live has moved much higher up the government's agenda, and this long overdue change is very welcome.  However we also note the continuing obsession with extended slaughter powers in the Animal Death Bill, and the numerous artificial barriers that still remain against the actual use of vaccination in practice.  There is a very long history of constantly "moving the goal posts" in the UK so that excuses can be found to reject vaccination. What is really needed is a change in attitudes, and we see little evidence of this in the response document.

 

KEY EXTRACTS FROM THE GOVERNMENT RESPONSE TO THE LESSONS LEARNED AND ROYAL SOCIETY INQUIRIES

 

With additional comment by Alan Beat in blue text (bold typeface is his own emphasis)

11. A key point in the Government's response is that the policy which it has adopted in the event of an
outbreak now means that:
# Defra will alert the Armed Forces immediately a case of FMD is confirmed so that the scope of their
possible involvement can be assessed.
# A national movement ban will be put in place as soon as a case of FMD is confirmed.
# The Government will apply tight biosecurity requirements in a 10km zone around infected premises
by declaring Restricted Infected Areas (so-called "Blue Boxes") from the start of an outbreak.
# Public rights of way will be only be restricted within Infected Areas. The Government will issue a
protocol for consultation shortly.
# The Government will dispose of culled animals by commercial incineration, rendering and licensed
landfill.

12. In addition:
# The control of FMD will require the slaughter of diseased animals and other susceptible animals on
the premises and of dangerous contacts - this is the 'stamping out' in EU legislation and
recommended by the inquiries.
# Beyond that the Government needs a range of strategies in its armoury for different disease
situations - including preventative culling powers as provided for in the Animal Health Bill and a
strategy of emergency vaccinate-to-live.
# For a vaccinate-to-live strategy to work, a number of logistical, technical and trade problems need to
be resolved and the Government is committed to resolving them - the Contingency Plan will cover
a vaccinate-to-live strategy and the Government will develop an exit strategy for use after
emergency vaccination.

13. Other key points are:
# Defra will communicate more clearly and effectively in a crisis.
# The Government will review and rationalise animal disease compensation arrangements. It will put
forward policy options for sharing the costs of animal disease outbreaks with the industry.

# a new Science Advisory Group will keep risk issues under close review when advising the Defra
Chief Scientific Advisor (CSA). It will also set up rapid and robust arrangements for advice to the
Defra CSA in an emergency;

2.4.10 The 1981 Animal Health Act and the secondary legislation made under it give Ministers in
Great Britain broad powers to deal with disease outbreaks such as FMD. These powers proved adequate to
implement the disease control strategies used during the 2001 outbreak. In particular, the Act provided a
legal basis for the slaughter of FMD infected animals, animals suspected of being infected, animals which
in some way have been in contact with affected animals, and animals which appear to the Minister to
have been in any way exposed to the infection of FMD. These powers were used to carry out culling on
infected premises, and of animals classed as "dangerous contacts". On the basis of veterinary advice that
such animals would have been exposed to FMD infection, the powers were also used to cull animals on
contiguous premises and (in Cumbria and Southern Scotland) in a 3km zone around infected premises.

 

Here lies the deception at the heart of government policy.  The advice to cull contiguous premises originated from epidemiologists  - computer modellers - and was opposed by veterinary specialists in FMD.   Powerful evidence from research at Pirbright Laboratory showed that spread of FMD by airborne means was limited to very short distances, up to 200 metres at most.  Even the modellers exaggerated claim that 17% of CPs would develop disease must have left the remaining 83% uninfected, unexposed and outside the legal power of government to slaughter.  Blanket CP slaughter was illegal under existing legislation, as clearly demonstrated by the Upton (Grunty the pig) judgement in which slaughter was denied and all costs awarded against MAFF.  



2.4.12 The Government believes that its Animal Health Bill helps to meet some of the inquiry
recommendations 1 . The Bill contains additional powers which would enable the Government to employ
pre-emptive culling strategies where appropriate, alongside clearer powers of entry for the purposes of
testing, culling and vaccination. The Bill would also allow a contiguous cull even where it could be
argued that animals on contiguous premises had not been exposed to the disease,
and therefore furthers
the clarity of the law, which the Lessons Learned Inquiry considered so important.

 

Here is the government's own admission that they did NOT have the legal power for blanket pre-emptive slaughter on CPs - otherwise why would they seek such powers in this new legislation?

  

Independent advice
2.5.12 The Lessons Learned report recommends that Defra's Chief Scientific Adviser (CSA)
maintains a properly constituted committee to advise in an emergency on the scientific aspects of disease
control. This should cover horizon-scanning and emerging risks. Defra has set up a new Science Advisory
Group to advise the Defra CSA on all matters associated with science and risk issues. This will become a
Non-Departmental Public Body called the Science Advisory Council next year. A subgroup of this body
will be activated upon confirmation of any outbreak of an infectious disease of animals to advise the Defra
CSA on scientific issues, as a high level technical advisory committee. The subgroup will consist of
experts from outside Government who will be able to provide a rapid response to technical and scientific
issues raised by such an outbreak. The Defra CSA will chair this committee and it will involve academics
and senior officials from the relevant departments (including the Government's CSA, the Department
of Health, and the Ministry of Defence and the Cabinet Office Civil Contingencies Secretariat) and
other EU experts.
2.5.13 The Government agrees with the Lessons Learned report which notes that such a committee
needs to give particular attention to the recommendations on the use of Scientific Advisory Committees,
as referred to in the report of the BSE Inquiry of 2000 (page 91). The Defra CSA recognises the
importance of independent advice to support the scientific input to policy decisions on animal disease
control. He will ensure that the independent Science Advisory Council is properly constituted on
"Phillips" principles (as set out in the report of the BSE Inquiry), and in the light of the Office of Science
and Technology's Code on the Conduct of Scientific Advisory Committees.

 

The phrases in bold type above are drawn particularly to your attention.  The so-called Science Group that advised David King (CSA) during the FMD epidemic was based on an ad-hoc group of epidemiologists.  It was not properly constituted; it broke all the main recommendations of the BSE inquiry; and it broke all the main requirements of the OST Code - enforcement of which is David King's direct responsibility!  Hence the carefully-worded paragraphs above to ensure that such gross abuse of power does not occur again.  Meanwhile, King remains in-post and unpunished. 



3.3.5 The Government believes, based on the scientific, veterinary and other advice available to it,
that it will not be appropriate to return to the pre-2001 position in which there were no movement
controls whatever applied to cattle or sheep in normal circumstances. It believes that movement controls
of some kind will be needed for the long term, given that despite the significant improvements the
Government is making, absolute import protection will be impossible to achieve. Defra, the Devolved
Administrations and local authorities will work together so that, so far as is possible, movement controls
are consistent across Great Britain. The Government is keen to ensure that any such controls are
proportionate and practical for farmers, and is confident that the suite of studies now in progress will
provide the information and analysis needed to achieve that outcome in consultation with all interested
parties.

4.1 Planned approach
4.1.1 The Government's objective in tackling any fresh outbreaks of FMD will be to eradicate the
disease as quickly as possible and to maintain the UK's disease-free status, as recommended by the
inquiries. In doing so, the Government will seek to select a control strategy which:
# minimises the number of animals which need to be slaughtered, either to control the disease or on
welfare grounds, and which keeps animal welfare problems to a minimum;
# causes the least possible disruption to the food, farming and tourism industries, to visitors to the
countryside, and to rural communities and the wider economy;
# minimises damage to the environment and protects public health; and
# minimises the burden on taxpayers and the public at large.
4.1.2 The Government will base its decisions on the best available scientific and veterinary advice,
including advice from the Defra Science Advisory Group, taking the views and interests of all
stakeholders into account.

 

During 2001 DEFRA consistently refused to listen to any viewpoint other than that expressed by the NFU, an undemocratic dinosaur organisation with a declining membership now less than one-third of UK farmers.  There is no evidence in this document that genuine consultation and involvement of other more representative groups has been addressed.



4.3.7 The Royal Society takes the view that "rapid culling of infected premises and known dangerous
contacts, combined with movement control and rapid diagnosis, will remain essential to controlling
FMD and most other highly infectious diseases," but "in many cases this will not be sufficient guarantee
that the outbreak does not develop into an epidemic." It also accepts that, although much work remains
to be done on what the potential of vaccination might be, - "emergency vaccination should now be
considered as part of the control strategy from the start of any outbreak of FMD". (Royal Society key
finding 7.) The Government accepts this and the other central recommendations on disease control of
the Lessons Learned and Royal Society inquiries.

4.3.9 The Government accepts that if emergency vaccination is used it should be on the basis of
vaccinate-to-live wherever possible.

4.3.12 Beyond this basic strategy, which will apply in all cases, there is a range of additional options and
strategies potentially available to meet the circumstances of a particular outbreak and the scientific and
veterinary advice. These include:-
# emergency vaccination (either to live or to kill; within an area or in a ring around an area);
# culling of other livestock exposed to the disease (e.g. premises under virus plumes, contiguous
premises); and,
# pre-emptive or 'firebreak' culling of animals not on infected premises nor dangerous contacts nor
necessarily exposed to the disease, in order to prevent the wider spread of the disease outwith an
area.

4.3.16 The Government is completely satisfied that meat and meat products from vaccinated animals
can enter the food chain.

 

Ben Gill and other NFU dinosaurs please note.

Pre-emptive culling
4.3.25 The culling of animals that have been exposed to the disease is provided for under existing
domestic legislation. The Lessons Learned Inquiry recommended that provision should be made for the
possible application of pre-emptive culling policies
, if justified by well-informed veterinary and scientific
advice, and judged to be appropriate to the circumstances. The Government agrees, and powers for
pre-emptive (or preventive) culling of animals not exposed to FMD infection in order to get ahead of the
disease and stop it spreading are proposed in the Government's Animal Health Bill. The Government
has published for consultation a draft Disease Control (Slaughter) Protocol to explain the circumstances
in which different culling strategies may be used.

 

The Lessons Learned inquiry has absolutely no authority to make recommendations on future control policy.  It was set up with no such remit, and without any personnel having expertise in FMD veterinary science.  It's purpose was to examine the administrative aspects of the crisis, nothing more, while the parallel Royal Society inquiry examined scientific and veterinary aspects.  It is therefore within the Royal Society recommendations that justification for pre-emptive culling must be sought - but none is provided.

 


4.3.26 Although such an approach was not needed in 2001 (except insofar as it was part of the effect of
the Dutch Government's vaccinate and cull policy), there were moments of great danger during that
outbreak when a shift in the pattern of the disease might have been catastrophic. The Government thus
believes, as did the Lessons Learned Inquiry, that it is necessary at present to maintain such flexibility.

 

The contiguous cull was a pre-emptive cull, as originally devised by the computer modellers and as implemented by the government.  This is made very clear by reading the papers published by the modelling groups and by a personal interview with David King, the CSA, who described it as "pre-emptive" on camera to Alan's specific questioning.

4.7 Welfare
4.7.1 Concern for animal welfare is at the heart of contingency planning for any future disease outbreak
or emergency
. In the case of a disease outbreak or emergency where the animals are killed, the plan will
include the already well established procedures to maintain welfare standards during emergency
slaughter. The assessment will also include the wider welfare impact of culling. For example, culling can
have a welfare benefit if it shortens the time course of the outbreak and thereby reduces the needs for
long-term movement restrictions.
4.7.2 Where possible, animals should be kept alive and healthy where they are. This is first of all the
responsibility of the farmer, but there may be need for Government assistance through a licensed
movement scheme or an arrangement to move fodder to animals precluded from movements. An animal
welfare disposal scheme is an option of very last resort, as it is clearly undesirable to slaughter animals
unless absolutely necessary.

 

For those of us who lived through the bloodbath of 2001, these empty platitudes lie uneasily against the stark reality of eleven million animals slaughtered, often in the most horrendous conditions imaginable - and nearly all entirely avoidable had existing science in diagnostics and vaccination been embraced.

 

 

Appendices:

 

(In this section the specific recommendations of each inquiry are listed with the response alongside)

Lessons Learned
LL R32 We recommend that, where the
control of exotic animal diseases has wider
economic or other implications, the
Government ensure that those consequences
for the country as a whole are fully considered.
(p86)

Accept. The creation of Defra means that the
interests of all sectors of the rural community can
be brought together and considered in a joined-up
way by a single Department. The
Contingency Plan and the disease control
strategies within it will have regard to the
economic, financial and environmental impact
of different methods of disease control, as
recommended by the National Audit Office in
their recommendation 2.

 

When all impacts of disease control policy are fully considered, it is impossible to justify slaughter on any but the most limited scale at a single point source.  This was the case in 2001 and will remain so in the future.  Once an outbreak has spread to more than one point, only vaccination makes any economic sense.

LL R47 We recommend that the
Government establish a consensus on
vaccination options for disease control in
advance of an outbreak. (p129)
Accept. Defra will engage with stakeholders to
try to establish as much common ground as
possible prior to an outbreak on disease control
strategies including vaccination.


LL R48 We recommend that the
Government ensure the option of vaccination
forms part of any future strategy for the control
of FMD. (p129)
Accept. The Government agrees that the
option of emergency vaccination should now be
considered as part of the control strategy from
the start of any outbreak of FMD.


LL R49 We recommend that the State
Veterinary Service maintain the capability to
vaccinate in the event of a future epidemic, if
the conditions are right. (p129)
Accept. Defra is currently working to maintain
and develop this vaccination capability.

LL R76 We recommend that the livestock
industry work with Government to undertake a
thorough review of the assurance and licensing
options to identify those arrangements most
likely to reward good practice and take-up of
training, and how such a new system might be
implemented. (p162)
Further consideration. The Government is
keen to work with industry in this area. Like the
Policy Commission on the Future of Food and
Farming, which favours a Whole Farm approach
to regulation rather than licensing, at this stage
the Government does not think that there is a
need to license livestock farmers. (See also
Lessons Learned recommendation 75)

LL R77 We recommend that the powers
available in the Animal Health Act 1981 be
re-examined, possibly in the context of a wider
review of animal health legislation,
to remove
any ambiguity over the legal basis
for future
disease control strategies. (p163)
Accept. The Government does not consider the
Animal Health Act powers to be "ambiguous". But
it agrees that they could be strengthened in
relation to some aspects of disease control -notably
pre-emptive culling and powers of entry
for emergency vaccination - which the inquiries
firmly endorse. The Government believes that the
passage of the current Animal Health Bill will help
meet part of the Inquiry recommendation.

 

Note that in the main body of the text, already discussed above, these references to legal ambiguity were conveniently overlooked.

Royal Society

RS Key Finding 7 Rapid culling of infected
premises and known dangerous contacts,
combined with movement control and rapid
diagnosis, will remain essential to controlling
FMD and most other highly infectious diseases.
In many cases this will not be sufficient
guarantee that the outbreak does not develop
into an epidemic. Given recent advances in
vaccine science and improved trading
regulations, emergency vaccination should now
be considered as part of the control strategy
from the start of any outbreak of FMD. By this
we mean vaccination-to-live, under which meat
and meat products from animals vaccinated and
subsequently found to be uninfected may enter
the normal human food chain. The
Government should prepare the regulatory
framework and practical arrangements (e.g.
validation of tests, and the supply of vaccines)
that would allow this. There must at the outset
be an exit strategy agreed among the main
stakeholders to allow the country to return to
the preferred "disease-free without
vaccination" status. (viii)

Accept. Emergency vaccination should now
be considered as part of the control strategy from
the start of any outbreak of FMD where measures
additional to culling of infected animals and
dangerous contacts are needed. The
Government also agrees that where emergency
vaccination is used this should be to live
wherever possible, and is committed to tackling
the issues identified by the Royal Society which
need to be resolved to make this a fully viable
disease control strategy.

Key Finding 9 There is considerable benefit to
be gained from understanding the quantitative
aspects of infectious disease dynamics.
Quantitative modelling is one of the essential
tools both for developing strategies in
preparation for an outbreak and for predicting
and evaluating the effectiveness of control
policies during an outbreak. A prerequisite is a
central database incorporating improved data on
farms, the location of animals, animal
movements, and the characteristics of the
diseases, together with arrangements to input
disease control data in a timely and assured way
during an outbreak. More work is required to
refine the existing models and to strengthen their
capacity to inform policy, which in turn requires
full access by researchers to this database and to
the data on previous outbreaks. (viii)
Accept. Modelling was used to good effect
during the 2001 epidemic
and has a vital role in
the development of disease control strategy and
during epidemics. On 23rd May 2002 Defra held
a workshop with leading modellers and is
actively considering future needs. (See Royal
Society recommendations 3.2 and 6.1 for more
detail).

 

"used to good effect"??  Actually it was used to overrule and sideline the very few specialists in FMD veterinary science who knew from long experience how to manage an epidemic.

RS R3.3 Defra should carry out urgent
research into local transmission of FMD that
will improve biosecurity in the field. (p35)
Accept. Local transmission of FMD virus
during the 2001 UK outbreak was pronounced
and the probable cause of the introduction of
virus to 78% of premises that became infected.
Extensive epidemiological data was collected in
all areas and is suitable for further study into the
mechanisms of disease transfer. This data already
establishes that good biosecurity was of critical
importance.
It is well recognised that the enhanced
biosecurity adopted in the Blue Boxes
(Restricted Infected Areas) reduced the local
spread of infection in those areas.
There are currently studies underway concerning
the methods of local spread, the susceptible stock
involved, and the particular risk factors
associated with dairy herds.

 

It has long been established that large farms with dairy cattle are far more likely to become infected than smaller farms with sheep - yet the mass slaughter policy of 2001 specifically targeted sheep, the majority of which were on smaller farms, in direct contradiction of all the evidence - "the best scientific advice"??



RS R6.4 Defra should ensure that the data
from the 2001 epidemic are checked and then
made widely available, while ensuring that any
data protection issues are resolved. (p72)
Accept. Data from the 2001 epidemic is being
cleansed
; Defra envisages alerting the scientific
community to the data that is available, and
inviting concept notes. Data protection is an
issue, but should be manageable.

 

Well over a year after the end of the epidemic, are we really expected to believe that the data is "being cleansed"?  They have been deliberately withheld in order to conceal the truth about the mass slaughter policy.

RS R7.2 Defra should ensure that
sufficiently specific and sensitive pen-side
antigen detection ELISAs are developed for
FMD and other major diseases, are validated as
quickly as possible, and are available on a large
scale for use in the field, and that a similar
ELISA is developed especially for detecting
antibodies in sheep. (p84)
Accept in principle. As far as Defra is aware
there is no validated field FMD pen-side test
currently available.  A pen-side test that was
under development was not widely used during
the 2001 UK outbreak.
  It is hoped that with
further research a dependable FMD test of this
type will become attainable.
Defra is currently considering funding proposals
for research into the application of newer
technologies for the diagnosis of FMD and other
vesicular diseases. This would include both
ELISA and RT-PCR machine based tests. The
former is expected to take at least a year before
the field-testing can start. The requirement is to
develop ELISA tests that are effective for disease
detection in all susceptible species, and not just
in sheep.

 

The highlighted statement above is code for "we chose not to use existing pen-side tests despite the fact that they had been used successfully elsewhere in the world; and despite the fact that this epidemic presented an opportunity to validate them in the field - exactly as we did with our own unvalidated competitive ELISA test so that we could use it for clearance testing" 

RS R8.3 In determining the arrangements for
deploying emergency vaccination, Defra
should:
# take account of the urgent need to achieve
validation for field use of the tests that
discriminate infected from vaccinated
animals;
# develop emergency vaccination strategies
that integrate theoretical and empirical
epidemiology and the logistics of delivery
of vaccine cover;
# establish an exit strategy that takes
account of the need for on-going
surveillance, safeguards for those involved
and agreement that products from
vaccinated animals can enter the normal
human food chain; (p105)
Accept. The Government is committed to
tackling these issues, in consultation with all
interested parties, so that it is in a position to
trigger an emergency vaccination campaign
should the need arise.


RS R9.2 As a matter of urgency, Defra
should draw up arrangements for a process for
the prior registration for vaccination of zoos
and rare breed collections. (p125)
Accept. The Government will discuss
implementation of this recommendation with
interested parties. The groups of animals will
need to be clearly defined in advance. It will also
seek EU and international agreement to ensure
that this approach would not affect a country's
FMD status or the ability to move zoo animals
across borders.

Conclusion:

The government response is a curious mix of denial for the catastrophic mistakes made during 2001, alongside much that is positive for the future.  It remains to be seen if the stated embracement of vaccination-to-live can be translated into reality for future outbreaks, or whether the deep-seated prejudice in favour of slaughter that still runs throughout this document will simply defer its implementation for many more years to come.